Sunday, May 22, 2016

They Kill Horses, Don't They?

Preakness Tragedy: 2 Horses Die in First 4 Races
Horse deaths on the racetrack, while alarming, are surprisingly common.

The Preakness got off to a tragic start on Saturday, with two horses dying in the first four races and a jockey hospitalized with a broken collarbone.

Homeboykris died after a come-from-behind victory in the first race at Baltimore’s Pimlico Course. After leaving the winner’s circle, the gelding suffered an apparent heart attack and collapsed. A planned necropsy will determine the official cause of death. 

USA Today Sports / Reuters  Homeboykris (3) collapsed and died following the post race Winners Circle presentation while returning to the barn during the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes day at Pimlico Race Course. 

“The horse was in really good health for a 9-year-old horse. When we claimed him, I was really amazed at how good of health,” trainer Francis Campitelli told the Baltimore Sun. “He had no infirmities in his legs. He was just in such good health, you know?” 

Tragedy struck again soon after.

Pramedya, owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stables, broke her leg during the fourth race and fell to the muddy track. The four-year-old filly was euthanized on the track. Pramedya’s jockey, Daniel Centeno, broke his right collarbone in the fall and was taken to Sinai Hospital.

The death of Pramedya comes 10 years after Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, another Lael Stables horse, suffered life-ending injuries at the Preakness. Barbaro broke his right hind leg during the race and died after months of failed treatment.

Racehorse deaths are not an anomaly. The cardiovascular strain of the sprints and the susceptibility of horses’ delicate legs result in many injuries. Twenty-four horses die each week at U.S. racetracks, according to a 2012 New York Times report

Following Saturday’s deaths, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals demanded the release of the horses’ medical records.

“Studies — and our own investigations — have shown that most breakdowns and deaths occur because horses have pre-existing injuries that are masked by the excessive use of legal medications. We want to know if that is what happened in the cases of Pramedya and Homeboykris,” PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. “In today’s racing drug culture, at least three horses are dying every day on U.S. tracks. The foolish use of muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other medications must end now.”

Betting on the Favorite, a wood engraving drawn by W. L. Sheppard (from a sketch by W. B. Myers) and published in Harper's Weekly, October 1870.

Stop the Betting, and the Cruelty Will Stop as Well

The suffering of racehorse is caused by greed.  The parimutuel system is what drives the horse racing industry.  It isn’t about the speed, courage and heart of the Thoroughbred.  It’s about holding the winning ticket.  

“Parimutuel betting (from the French: Pari Mutuel or mutual betting) is a betting system in which all bets of a particular type are placed together in a pool; taxes and the "house-take" or "vigorish" are removed, and payoff odds are calculated by sharing the pool among all winning bets. In some countries it is known as the Tote after the totalisator, which calculates and displays bets already made.

The parimutuel system is used in gambling on horse racing, greyhound racing, jai alai, and all sporting events of relatively short duration in which participants finish in a ranked order. A modified parimutuel system is also used in some lottery games.” From Wikipedia

Eight Belles' work-out at Churchill Downs in preparation for the 134 Kentucky Derby May 1, 2008, ridden by her trainer, Larry Jones

Anyone who knows me or has been to this blog often, knows that I am no fan of PETA.  Hysterical humaniacs do more harm than good, in my opinion. And PETA has been caught red-handed destroying hundreds of animals given over to their shelter.  The bodies of the slain animals were dumped in commercial dumpsters behind retail stores.  (Read more HERE)

I am not categorically against the euthanizing of dogs and cats in shelters.  Sometimes it needs to be done.  But it should not be the default solution for animals entering a shelter.  However, I do agree with PETA - for the most part - regarding horse racing.   
There have been horse races since people started keeping horses, and the occasional test of speed and/or endurance is generally harmless.  It may even be useful in choosing breeding stock, just as the sheepdog trial can test and showcase the ability of a superior herding dog.  But when betting on winners of horse racing begins, things start to go downhill fast.

'Eight Belles' Should Sound the End of Racetrack Betting

“Just after crossing the finish line in the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2008, a young filly named Eight Belles collapsed when both of her front ankles snapped. She was euthanized in the dirt where she lay, the latest victim of the dirty business of thoroughbred racing. 

LA Times
Eight Belles' death is yet another reminder that these horses are raced when they are so young that their bones have not properly formed, and they are often raced on surfaces that are too hard for their bones—like the hard track at Churchill Downs. Eight Belles' jockey whipped her mercilessly as she came down the final stretch. This is no great surprise, since trainers, owners, and jockeys are all driven by the desire to make money, leaving the horses to suffer terribly. 

PETA is calling on the racing industry to suspend the jockey and trainer, to bar the owner from racing at the track, and, at the very least, to stop using young horses who are so susceptible to these types of horrific injuries. We're also demanding that the industry stop racing horses on hard tracks and switch to softer, synthetic surfaces, which would spare horses' bones and joints, in addition to calling for a permanent ban on the use of whips.

Although Eight Belles' death, like Barbaro's before hers, made headlines, countless lesser-known horses suffer similar fates—their broken legs and battered bodies are simply hidden from public view. Most racehorses end up broken down or cast off or are sent to Europe for slaughter."  from:
The best way to halt the inappropriate practices in Thoroughbred breeding, training, handling, housing and racing is to make gambling illegal.  Pari-mutuel betting must go.  If people must gamble, let them play poker, or buy a lottery ticket. 

This video from the NY Times explores the extent of breakdowns and deaths of American racehorses.

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